While the consensus view remains that October’s stock market rout was “healthy” and “overdue,” we think it was more likely the first leg down of much larger decline. But it’s still worth reviewing the improvement in valuations that market losses and this year’s excellent fundamentals have combined to produce.
A few clients pointed out that the longest-ever recovery from an intermediate correction (Apr. 1994–Feb. 1995) became the base from which the S&P 500 would eventually triple over the next five years. We’re not equipped to address that possibility in an objective fashion, so we’ll let you be the judge.
2018’s S&P 500 setback qualifies as an “intermediate” correction. Historically, the duration of intermediate corrections is brief, and recovery time to move back above prior highs has also been brief. This year’s retracement route is already among the most meandering of all recovery paths since 1950.
The setback from the January 26th market peak represents the ninth correction of 7% or more since 2009, the most ever recorded during a single cyclical bull market.
So, what happened to the January Barometer—the old analyst’s maxim that a market gain in January portends a gain for the full year?
If our market disciplines turn bullish in the weeks ahead, we’ll certainly follow that lead—covering remaining shorts, re-establishing a semi-aggressive market position, and wiping egg off our faces for having called a “cyclical bear market” that slammed the Russell 2000 (-26%), EAFE (-26%), and Emerging Markets (-37%)… but somehow not the one most followed, the S&P 500 (-14%).
At its January 20th closing low, the S&P 500’s peak-to-trough decline of –12.7% barely met our definition of a severe market correction (an S&P 500 loss of 12% to 18%). But the behavior of this particular index can be quite sinister during the final phase of a bull market—and during much of the ensuing bear.